While I’ve enjoyed some of the zero issues DC has been pumping out, none of them caught me off guard until Batman: The Dark Knight. Over the last year, this is one of the Batman books that has not impressed me. It isn’t the complete failure of Batman Incorporated, but it’s nowhere near the constant excellence of Batman. I had largely given up on the series but, ever curious, I bought issue #0. When I realized this was yet another look into Batman’s origin, I steeled myself for a let down.
Surprisingly, Batman: The Dark Knight #0 is not only a solid issue, it’s also a great story to add into the fold of how Bruce Wayne became the Dark Knight. The issue starts just after Wayne’s parents were gunned down. We watch as he grows up being told that the man who shot his family was probably paid to do it by somebody who Thomas Wayne angered just for being a Wayne. Bruce becomes obsessed with the idea that his parents' death was the result of a grand conspiracy. Through his adolescence, Bruce learns to study, fight, and begins his first pangs of being a detective.
In the climax, Bruce finds Joe Chill and discovers his parents’ death was simply the act of a drunken coward. The loss of the conspiracy idea drives Bruce Wayne into a downward spiral. He simply can’t get over the fact that this tragedy was because of nothing. It’s then that he decides to make sure that type of senseless tragedy never befalls anyone again. The issue ends with him heading to Tibet on the first leg of the journey to being Batman.
Writer Gregg Hurwitz does a great job of giving Bruce Wayne’s story a little kick. Thus far we’ve all just assumed the death of his parents drove Bruce to dedicate his life to being Batman. While that’s a good general reason, it never pointed out what pushed him from becoming a drunken rich loss to the greatest hero Gotham has ever known. Batman: The Dark Knight #0 nudges the story just a little deeper and gives Bruce’s motivations more weight.
There are some bumps in the story. The first few pages show a young Bruce Wayne returning to the alley his parents were murdered, trying to get a wino that lived in the ally to tell him who shot them. The wino mugs Bruce and kicks him out of the ally. Years later, when Bruce has graduated from College, he returns to the ally in another attempt to find out who shot his parents. The bum is still there and, with Bruce no longer a child but a strapping young man, gladly tells him it was Joe Chill. Really? That many years later and the bum hasn’t moved on and, even though he drinks heavily every night, remembers it was Joe Chill?
Joe Chill’s angle is also a little shaky. I never bought that the man who gunned down Thomas and Martha Wayne would remain in Gotham City. Hurwitz has him living in the same apartment and still drinking. The bum to Chill angle is just a little too convenient for me. Outside of that, Hurwitz takes a non-action issue and makes it incredibly appealing.
The pencils from both Mico Suayan and Juan Jose Ryp are very inconsistent. Some of the work is gorgeous, lush scenery and dense backgrounds really give the impression of Gotham closing in around Bruce. Some of the characters are well done, particularly young Bruce Wayne. Other characters look too much like Mad Magazine cartoons. At times the detail work is really excellent and at others really overbearing. None of the art in Batman: The Dark Knight #0 is bad, it’s just so inconsistent it takes you out of the story.
(4 Story, 3 Art)